An idle mind is the devil’s workshop.

§  Traditional


Adapted From Zora Neale Hurston

Ever wonder where the expression “unh-hunh” originated?

The Old Devil looked around Hell one day and saw that his place was short of help, so he thought he’d run up to Heaven and kidnap some angels to keep things running until he got reinforcement from Miami.

Well, he slipped up behind a great crowd of angels on the outskirts of Heaven and stuffed a couple of a thousand in his mouth, a few hundred under each arm, and wrapped his tail around another thousand. And he darted off to Hell.

When he was flying low over the Earth looking for a place to land, a man looked up and saw the Devil and asked him, “Old Devil, I see you have a load of angels. Are you going back for more?”

Devil opened his mouth and told him, “Yeah,” and all the little angels flew out of his mouth and went on back to Heaven. While he was trying to catch them, he lost all the others. So he had to go back after another load.

He was flying low again and the same man saw him and said, “Old Devil, I see you got another load of angels.”

Devil nodded his head and mumbled, “unh, hunh,” and that’s why we say it that way today.

Devils confronting Dante and Virgil, Gustave Doré, 1890. Woodcut engraving. Source: Dante Alighieri’s Inferno from the La Divina Comedia.

From The African American Book of Values: Classic Moral Stories, Chapter: The Book of Self Mastery, Self-Discipline, page 55.


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